Until the other day, I thought a troll was one of those horrid little creatures living under bridges just waiting for the chance to reach up and scare the dickens out of some little kid. But lo and behold, as a reader told me, a troll in the Internet age is someone who grabs hold of a blog or website conversation and steers it to suit their motivation, sometimes a specific end result in mind, other times just to make sure either side in the story gets too cozy lest the troll’s influence diminishes.
Now that I know about these little demons think I’m starting to see them everywhere.
We had an interesting discussion about the European Emissions Scheme on the Airplane Geeks Show a few weeks back. The plan demands any aircraft – airliner or business jet – entering EU airspace take part in that region’s effort to reduce aviation’s carbon footprint … a save the planet effort that’s pretty tough to refute on the surface, whether you believe humans created the problem or not. That was the point of the AG discussion actually at least, not the good or bad of the tax (which doesn’t make much sense), but a good old “Save the Planet” chat.
After the show, we received a couple of ugly listener letters who were really upset by the discussion. One letter in particular about the emissions discussion did rattle me. “I found the Airplane Geeks discussion to be persistently biased and surprisingly unflattering to the role the USA plays in the world. Your (he meant me here) discussions and views in this episode made you look like the champions of rainbows and unicorns while presenting Americans as a bunch of intestinal parasites only interested in profiteering and plundering the globe.”
I said saving the planet was a good idea and I thought the EU had trumped the U.S. in starting a debate no one on either side of the Atlantic seemed to be having … and still isn’t for the most part. Everyone’s gotten focused on the tax. We were talking about clean air. How the chat evolved into “profiteering parasites” escaped me.
Then there was an Air France 447 discussion on LinkedIn. I made a comment about the oddity of some of that captain’s behavior in the last few minutes of the flight and was quickly whacked by a couple of folks with “real credentials,” or so they said, one of them a NY Times contributor. I didn’t have another opinion, I had a stupid opinion there. Then there was a discussion about media that someone hijacked on our alumni listserv. And remember when the Big Three dumped their business airplanes a few years ago after someone outed them in public about actually using the airplanes for business? Same thing … people trying to steer the discussion in a direction they wanted, not really concerned about the discussion itself. I didn’t simply have a different opinion in all these places … I had the wrong one.
You know what happens when some man or woman gets jumped on in one of these forums … they defend themselves for a bit but finally just say, “screw it,” and leaves. And who’d blame them?
And the trolls who often represent some minority opinion win by default.
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